Tag Archives: Trail Ridge Road

Deer Mountain, RMNP Estes Park CO, Hiked 7/19/14

21 Nov

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Starting Elevation:  8930 Ft

Highest Elevation:  10,013 Ft ( A total Elevation gain of almost 1100 Ft)

Trail Length: 6 miles – it took us 3ish hours but we did spend a lot of time on the summit.

Trail Uses:  Hiker & Horses ( but no horses allowed on the Summit spur)

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate

Bathrooms:  There are bathrooms at the visitors centers there was nothing near the trail head

Pets:  No this is Rocky Mountain National Park and no Dogs allowed

Deer Mountain trail sign

I am so sorry at how long I have been away.  I will have to catch you all up soon, I can tell you that I have had just a few breaks in hiking but have been mostly hiking every weekend.  I want to get out those new trials I did while away and then one big summary of some amazing days out on the trails between then and now.  First Deer Mountain!

Wow it has been a long time since I hiked this one, I almost forgot what it was like!  I did it the weekend after I had company in town so I wanted something that challenged me but was not too much, because when my company was here we had done 3 tough hikes in just 5 days.  I was wiped when we hit this trail.

This hike was exactly what I needed as it has great views all the way up of the mountains that make up Rocky Mountain National Park. But there was this weird haze in the air we hoped would burn off but only ended up getting worse.  We speculated that it was from that horrible fire in California this summer.

The trail head is right off Trail Ridge Road and there is literally a little bit of a wide shoulder for maybe 6 cars to park.  You can park along the road in some places near here, but get there early if you want a parking spot at any of them.  There are also shuttle parking lots at the various gates and you can take a shuttle to so many places in the park so you don’t have to worry about finding parking.

We got there around 7:30 and just barley nabbed a spot.

We got there around 7:30 and just barely nabbed a spot.

The trail starts out super wide and very well maintained, the whole trial was very well maintained and we even talked to a couple of Park rangers we passed while hiking.

Start of the trail

Start of the trail

First trail marker

After a decent climb, while the stellar views just started opening up all around us we got the Switchback part.  Sadly the haze in the air made it hard to get any really great pictures.  I actually gave up taking them because there was no depth but we stopped a lot just to ohhhhh and ahhhh.  It doesn’t take too long to start the switchbacks up the to flat before the summit.

The views were everywhere

The views were everywhere

Starting up the switchbacks

Starting up the switchbacks

Then towards the end of the switch backs

Then towards the end of the switch backs

There were a lot of switch backs on this one and it was a strange struggle that day.  I am not sure if it was the altitude or exhaustion from the few days before with my guests in town, but it took me time to get up this part.  I would not say it is particularly hard but that day for me it was.

Once we turned the corner of the last switchbacks we reached a nice flat that felt like it went on forever but was probably more like a quarter of mile maybe half a mile before the final summit climb.  The summit climb sign made us want to come back and do the rest of the trail back to Estes just to see what is was like.

The summit climb Summit climb conditions

It was just a short steep climb to the summit, and then WOW!  Such an amazing payoff so quickly!

The Summit

The Summit

I will tell you we hung up there as long as we could before more people started showing up.  I think we got a solid 25 minutes up there just to take it all in.  It was lovely.  The hike back down was crowded…. and it was just around 10AM.  I cannot imagine what kind of traffic this trail gets throughout every summer day, but I can tell you I was glad we got there early and had it mostly to ourselves.

If you ever find yourself in Rocky Mountain National Park and you want a great view payout without a ton of effort this is the hike for you.  Of course there are so many great trails in the park but I really liked how this one was both a nice work out with great payout.  There were views in every direction and of the almost the whole park. After the directions will the be the few goodish pictures I took while at the top.

Directions:    The Deer Ridge Junction Trailhead is located 3.05 miles west of the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station along Trail Ridge Road (Highway 36). The trailhead is located on the north side of the road at the Trail Ridge Road – Highway 34 split. There is no designated lot, but roadside parking is permitted. Parking is limited.

View of Estes Park from the Summit.

View of Estes Park from the Summit.

View looking south towards Long's Peak

View looking south towards Long’s Peak

The view West-ish

The view West-ish

Looking North was a little obstructed

Looking North was a little obstructed

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TrailRidge Road Hike/Snowshoe RMNP, Estes Park CO hiked 4/5/14

12 Apr

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There is a Facebook Page called Enjoy Estes Park and every Thursday they run a contest for an all expenses paid trip to Estes Park, free lodging, free meals, Free beer and wine, free snacks throughout the day, free rental of sporting goods and they even gave us money to spend in some of the stores in town.  They started doing it in October and it runs for 36 weekends through May.  They start every Thursday then pick someone by Saturday night for 2 weekends ahead.  2 weeks ago I won!  So this past weekend we had a fun weekend in Estes.  I wasn’t sure with all we had to do for free that we would get in time for hike or snowshoe but we did.

Saturday was crazy beautiful when we woke up at 6AM…. I was determined to get in a hike or snowshoe!  What was not so great… the headache and disconnected head I woke up with.  I will admit I still thought this was my crown work at this point since it had been hanging around all week at weird times.   I am not one to give into things like this when I have so much planned and like so many before me, I just pushed through…..

Driving into RMNP

Driving into RMNP

As we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park ( after our free breakfast) I saw views I had never seen before, as I have reflected on this shock of awe it occurred to me that every time I have actually entered the park it has been cloudy, snowy or stormy.   I think if had seen the views I saw last Saturday I would have been in RMNP more frequently before now.  I have to be honest here, I didn’t want to leave….like EVER.

It took us almost an hour to get to the Trail Ridge Road parking lot and trail( Snowshoe details here) because we kept stopping to take pictures. I figured that we could hit this trail again and see what it looks like outside of a snow storm, assuming there were views.

When we pulled up to the parking area, I was still not feeling so hot and I seriously chalked it up to poor sleep and the crown.  So we climbed up on one side of the parking area to get this shot, I figured it was just exhaustion.

parking lot

We scouted out the trail and saw it was all straight ice and decided that we didn’t need to bring our snowshoes, but if I was honest with myself I knew I couldn’t carry the snowshoes  anyway.  We started hiking up the road and the views were amazing!

rounding the first corner up the road

rounding the first corner up the road

how the Road/trail looked

how the Road/trail looked

Views before the Snow

Views before the Snow

It was pretty much after this turn that I checked out….. that disconnected head thing that happens when you have a head cold, well I was there. The views were crazy amazing and I was loving them but I was also out of touch….

view

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

same view 2 weeks earlier

same view 2 weeks earlier

Looking forward

Looking forward

We walked for about a mile and then all the sudden the snow was deep, and us with no snowshoes… the good or bad of it was, I was completely oblivious and just kept following Aaron.  He was following other footprints so I didn’t care much about our direction and then the other foot prints were  gone … I still didn’t care much I just had my head down thinking-> put one foot in front of the other.

hmmmmmm snow

hmmmmmm snow

As we moved forward, I was fighting with myself the whole way thinking WTF this is cake why am I struggling> get over the stupid tooth thing already ….. while Aaron was moving forward on 2-5 feet of snow with no input from me.  He did awesome, as he always does, but about a quarter to half mile into the snow the tracks we and been following turned around while we kept going.

Looking Back

Looking Back

It was both cool and foggy as we went forward, I completely figured out the snowshoe trail I could not see the last time.  The hard route from Hidden Valley to Trail Ridge Road > Can you see it?

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

As we were moving through this last little bit I realized I was totally sick…. its not the tooth.

just us

At one point Aaron turned around and said what do you think, I just stared at him and said whatever…. he knew >I had the sick face…. so he said check the time we still have a lot of awards to get.  Sure enough it was 11 and we needed to turn around.  It was then that I realized I was totally sick. For the record it only took me 20 minutes more to voice it….

The drive out was both beautiful and painful….. I never wanted to leave, I was so excited about our prizes AND completely sick…..  We stopped at every awe point and took pictures, we went into town and celebrated our wins, we left early the next morning and I spent the next 36 hours in bed.

I had a crazy good time in Estes Park despite my illness, I loved seeing Trail Ridge Road without a storm, I loved driving through RMNP with moody weather and skies.   I loved going through town and gathering our prizes…. What I didn’t love  was, was being sick the whole time.  Either way we got some good pictures…..

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still pretending on the drive out with crazy beautiful views

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Great view…. pretending to not be sick

 

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park( RMNP)- Estes Park CO- Snowshoed 3/22/14

28 Mar

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Starting Elevation:  somewhere in the mid 9000’s

Highest Elevation: A little over 10,000 Ft- our watch that gives us the elevation is no longer working so this is a guestimate.

Trail Uses: Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing Winter only trail as it is an actual road in summer.

Trail Length:  5.5 miles Round trip but this can grow and shrink based on conditions. We did a little over 6 miles, it took 3.5 hours.

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate

Bathrooms: None at the road closure so hit one of the visitor centers just outside the park.

Pets: No pets allowed in RMNP

Fee:  Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass

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I have been trying to figure out the balance when it comes to snowshoeing, is more mileage better or steeper trails?  Since last week we did a steeper trail with low mileage that felt good and maybe a little too easy.  I decided this week would be better to up the mileage and keep the incline low, I was also secretly hoping we might get some magic timing again like last week and catch  the amazing views that Trail Ridge Road is supposed to have.   Once again the weather forecast was snowy…snowy the day before, through the night and all day Saturday and it truly was.

We were just outside of the Park when we came across 2 large groups of Elk.

elk Lots of elk

The roads were not great and the snow was pretty thick at times, so it was no surprise that when we pulled into the area cleared for parking at the road closure we were the only ones there.

Parking lot Start

Trail Ridge road is open through the summer and is closed in the winter months until the snow is no longer an obstacle.  It goes over the Continental Divide in RMNP and in the winter is used as a great way to snowshoe or cross-country ski with amazing views, wicked wind and a certain level of security in that it is impossible to get lost.   Since it was pretty obvious the snow had no intention of stopping, we were confident that there would be no views.  We just got our snowshoes on and started moving and at first it was decidedly….hard.  Not just because we were the first people out there in a while, but likely the altitude played a factor too.  Oh and maybe the fact I overdressed.

looking back after the first quarter mile

looking back after the first quarter-mile

I am always amazed when I do a trail for function then get transfixed by the unexpected beauty.  The snow made any views of the surrounding mountains impossible, occasionally we would catch hints of them but the snowy landscape itself was just lovely.  The bonus of this particular snow storm was that the wind wasn’t all that bad so no wicked wind to make us miserable.

It wasn’t too long before we got to the overlook near Hidden Valley which used to be a ski resort, in fact  my sister learned to ski there, but now it is all closed down and its own snowshoe/winter fun route.  You can make a difficult adventure loop by starting at either Trail Ridge Road OR Hidden valley then climb/descend to the other location.   I have to be honest, staring over the edge at Hidden Valley I have no idea how you do the loop.  Perhaps taking the road all the way around to that main run?  I didn’t get a good shot of it to even let you all hypothesize with me.

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

At this point on the road the snow was not very deep and we actually almost took off our snowshoes for fear of ruining the metal spikes on them.  When we turned the corner up ahead it was crazy deep again, so deep we could no longer go side by side.  We took turns breaking trail to help us keep some strength in reserve just in case we went further than we originally planned.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

We went along the road for about 3 miles and had it all to ourselves the whole way.  We decided to turn around when we got to this sign, for the record the snow wasn’t this bad the whole way it was a just well-timed gust of wind.

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Looking at our single track

Looking  back at our single track

Breaking trail

Breaking trail

All together we got a little over 6 miles from the snowshoe and maybe 600 feet of elevation gain.  Breaking trail was great exercise, after just 3 miles my legs were solidly tired, it was nice to turnaround and head back to the car.  We saw some people on the way back, I think we passed maybe  6 or 7 total the whole snowshoe, all of them taking advantage of the trail we broke.

I have to be honest, I cannot wait to get back to this trail and try it again with a clear sky, the few hints of mountains we saw through out our snowshoe looked amazing!  I would also like to go further than we made it last week.  We didn’t get a ton of pictures because the snow was so heavy I was worried about hurting my new Nikon.  After the directions will be a very few of our favorite pictures.

Directions: Taking 36/66 through Ester Park, at the 3rd light along main street there will be signs for the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and RMNP, turn left.  Once you cross into the park, stay straight then take this road for about 8 miles to the road closure sign.   You will pass the Hidden Valley snow park on your right before the road gets curvy( hairpin turns) and then you will be at the road closure.

being artsy

being artsy

Cool Tree

Cool Tree

Best View

Best View with a little moisture on the lens